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Place Name Picks: State your State favorites

state names

By Linda Rosenkrantz

When it comes to picking a place name for your child, you could consider a continent like Asia, a country like India, a city like Vienna or Verona…or one of the select group of U.S. states that lend themselves to babies’ birth certificates. Here are the Nameberry picks of the best state names and how they came to be—with their mix of Native American, British and French origins.

AlabamaThe name Alabama is believed to have come from the Choctaw language. Various interpretations of the meaning include “here we rest,” “clearers of the thicket” and “herb gatherers.”

Alabama ranked just once on the Social Security list, and that was in 1881, when it was Number 944. Right now, though, it’s a hot and sultry Southern baby name option, used by hipsters Drea de Matteo and Shooter Jennings, and by rocker Travis Barker.   Zelda Fitzgerald created a character named Alabama in her one novel, Save Me the Waltz, and Patricia Arquette played an Alabama in the movie True Romance.

Other Alabama-related possibilities: capital city Montgomery, state flower Camellia, nickname ‘Heart of Dixie’.

CarolinaAmong the most familiar as a given name, the Carolinas were named to honor King Charles I of England. The softest and most melodic of the Carol names, Carolina now ranks at Number 429 (way behind Caroline), and has been the inspiration of such songs as James Taylor’s Carolina on My Mind.

Other Carolina-related possibilities: Wren, state bird of SC, Jessamine, state flower of SC, Amethyst, state gem of SC, Charlotte, largest city of NC, Emerald, state gem of SC.

DakotaOne of two names that are attached to two states, the Dakotas are a sub-tribe of the Sioux Indians and the name translates to mean “friend” or “friendly.” Used for both boys and girls, Dakota ranked in the Top 100 from 1995 to 2000, the high point of relaxed cowboy place names. Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson named their daughter Dakota in 1989; she is now a successful actress in her own right, playing the lead role of Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey. Other notable Dakotas are the singer Dakota Staton and actress Dakota Fanning (shown).

Some Dakota related possibilities: Pierre, the capital of SD, Rose, state flower of ND.

FloridaSpanish explorer Juan Ponce de Léon named it La Florida, meaning “flowery land” when he landed there during Easter season, known as Pascua Florida.

Florida first came to modern notice via the no-nonsense character of Florida Evans first on Maude, and then Good Times. Although rarely heard today, Florida was consistently on the popularity list until 1936, reaching a high point of Number 381 in 1888.

Florida-related possibilities: the city of Orlando, state gem Coral

GeorgiaGeorgia was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies, named in honor of British King George. A beautiful name, redolent with sweet-scented Southern charm, Georgia is a rising star, now at Number 252 in the US and even more popular in countries from Greece to New Zealand, as well as a celebrity fave.

Georgia-related possibilities: cities Atlanta, Augusta, Macon

IndianaChristened in 1800, Indiana means “Land of Indians,” in light of all the tribes inhabited there, including the Chippewa, Erie and Iroquois. The name acquired some modern dash via Indiana Jones (born Henry), and has been used sparingly for both genders. Ethan Hawke chose it for his daughter, and Summer Phoenix and Casey Affleck for their son, in honor of her brother River Phoenix, who played the young Indiana Jones.

Indiana-related: flower Peony, cities Gary, Anderson

LouisianaLouisiana was named after Louis XIV, King of France from 1643 to 1715. When de La Salle claimed the territory drained by the Mississippi River for France, he named it La Louisiane, or ‘Land of Louis.’ The name is rarely used, though it’s a wearable smoosh.

Related possibility flower Magnolia,

MontanaThe name Montana derives from the Latin/Spanish word for mountainous. A western place name that had a moment in the sun in the nineties, when it rode into the lower echelons of the pop list, and was used ambisexually by a few celebs.

Related possibilities: State tree Pine, animal Bear, gem Sapphire, capital city Helena

NevadaNevada comes from the Spanish Sierra Nevada, or snow-covered mountain range: it’s the Spanish feminine form of ‘covered in snow’. It’s a cowboyish western place name that has been around for decades—first Alan Ladd and then Steve McQueen played a character named Nevada Smith in the sixties. Neve, which means snow and was used by Conan O’Brien, is heard more often.

With Nevada ties: Trout, Pine, Opal, Laughlin, Reno

TennesseeThe name probably derived from a Spanish explorer passing through a Native American village called Tanasqui, and/or later British traders encountering a Cherokee town named Tanasi. The modern English spelling came about in the 18th century. Its meaning might be “meeting place” or “winding river.”

One of the first uses of Tennessee as a name came about when playwright William Lanier Williams adopted it as his nom de plume and then singer Tennessee Ernie Ford attached it to the front of his name. Still, it was a bit of a surprise when Reese Witherspoon chose it for her son: it was a tribute to her mother’s home state.

Other Tennessee-related possibilities: state flower Iris and the state’s largest city, Memphis, used by Bono for his daughter and Jemima Kirke for her son

VirginiaSite of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America, Virginia was named after Queen Elizabeth I, known as the Virgin Queen, and was the name given to the first child born of English parents in the New World. Virginia has been something of a neglected classic in recent decades, after being a Top 10 name in the 1920s, and in the Top 100 until 1959. Definitely due for a comeback.

Related possibility: the city of Alexandria

So do you have to live in Georgia to name your daughter Georgia–or do you NOT have to live in Georgia to use the name?

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30 Responses to “Place Name Picks: State your State favorites”

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lesliemarion Says:

August 13th, 2014 at 11:14 pm

I don’t think it matters whether you live in the state or not. I love Virginia (it’s a family name too), but have never visited the state.

I’m fond of Vermont (Monty) for a boy, as well as Moab, Boston, and Maine.

Virginia is my favorite for girls, as I tend to prefer more exotic locations for their names (Havana, China, India, Scotia, England, Bruges, Lucerne, Geneva, etc.).

jan11th Says:

August 13th, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Nevada & Dakota

jessiemay Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 2:44 am

I think naming your child Georgia is very different to naming your child, for example, Tennessee, as Georgia is quite a common choice whilst Tennessee is predominantly known a state name. That said, I’m personally pretty fine with most state names. I like Tennessee on a girl, and Indiana (which, actually, I was almost named!), Alabama, Georgia, Dakota, Virginia… they’re all fine. I actually also really like Nebraska (don’t know if you know the song Settle Down by Kimbra, but one of the lines mentions hypothetically naming her baby daughter Nebraska which I thought was pretty interesting a cute) and Arkansas nn Arkie.

SarahMeganC Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 6:36 am

I actually think you shouldn’t live in Georgia if you name your daughter Georgia. I wouldn’t want to be Carolina from South Carolina.

SarahMeganC Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 6:36 am

I actually think you shouldn’t live in Georgia if you name your daughter Georgia. I wouldn’t want to be Carolina from South Carolina.

loislane1222 Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 6:40 am

Ugh. My cousin named her first baby girl Montana in the late 90s. She very much wanted to name her second daughter Dakota, but her husband vetoed it. The baby became Mariah. Honestly, Montana is a lot less confident of a young lady than Mariah.

I am not a fan of most place names, unless they have a deep and rich tradition.

Yes, Virginia and Georgia most definitely qualify. I also love the dignified Catalina and globetrotter Geneva.

Hopefully, the Montana – Dakota – Brooklynn – Londyn stage is behind us.

Also: I don’t think it matters where you live. If you live in Virginia or Vermont, I think it’s absolutely fine to name your child Virginia if you love the name.

But please, people of the world, do not name your child “Nebraska” under any circumstance. (I saw a post above.)

epowell Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 7:52 am

My daughter is named Georgia and it fits her perfectly. But, we get asked ALL THE TIME, “is that a family name?”, “are y’all from Georgia?”, “Do y’all have family that lives there?” Kind of silly because yes, it is a place name BUT it’s a very well established first name as well 🙂

peacebird10 Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 8:05 am

My peronal rule is that the name has to be a name in its own right to be used, so Georgia is ok but Alabama is out. But I’m just not adventurous in my name preferences.

While most are simply not my style, I consider Indiana rather offensive. Think about it: Land of Indians. My Cherokee grandfather would be quite upset to be called an “Indian,” so why is Indiana a serious contender in so many minds? I get that it has a nice sound, but perhaps stick with Indie, or Indira, or Indigo? Maybe even Deanna?

SparkleNinja18 Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 8:40 am

This is my friend’s dream post. She was telling me a couple weeks ago how much she loves state/place names. Her favorites are Georgia (probably because of the One Direction song), Virginia, Montana, and Indiana.

I know a girl named Kansas. I have no idea why anyone would want their child to share a name with such a boring place. Apparently she wasn’t named after the state, but rather a horse her parents used to have. Interesting…

I think Arizona could make an interesting name. I knew a girl named Zona when I was really little, but it wasn’t short for anything. I also really like Alaska.

lindsW Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 9:36 am

Slight correction — the Louisiana city is MeTairie, not MeRairie.

indiefendi Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 10:00 am

Alabama is my favorite! I think it’s so cute yet badass at the same time. And I’m Choctaw so that’s a cherry on top!

Carolina (I’d pronounce it eena at the end if I used it) is really pretty. I have a positive imagery of it.

Dakota is on my list, I love that it means “friend” and I’m part Native American myself. It has a nature quality that I like.

Georgia is a strong Southern name. I think it’s so elegant.

Indiana I would definitely use because India is ubiquitous where I live. The ana adds something extra to it. Very pretty.

Louisiana and Tennessee are kinda clunky (not in a bad way) but I still love them.

Virginia has always had a WASP air to me but I would use it in the middle since I’m originally from Virginia.

Montana has always been tacky to me. I’ve never liked it.

Nevada is worse.

I would also use California or Indio, they sort of have a hipster-ness to it.

rie Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 11:37 am

Louisiana
Virginia
Carolina
Magnolia
Alexandra

peach25 Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 11:49 am

Georgia is a family name; I prefer Caroline to Carolina. Nevada Barr is a well-known mystery writer.
I think Kansas is as good a name as Montana or Dakota, and from someone who once lived there, it’s not a boring state! Still, probably better name for a band, or a horse.

detailsgirl Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 12:05 pm

I’m surprised Texas, Washington and Vermont didn’t make the list. Tex is such a common nickname/character name. Washington is an established name. I love Vermont for a girl (nn Monty), and I see someone else above like it for a boy.

awkwardinpink Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 12:14 pm

I love Georgia, Carolina, and Virginia as names, and Dakota I don’t mind, but I have trouble getting behind place names when I know the place too well. Living in Boston, I can’t imagine it as a name at all. I also can’t see myself ever using Logan, because of the airport. But I have cousins out West named Brooklyn and Albuquerque, so I guess any city is fair game!

JH Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

I love Virginia and Georgia, but I have no connection to the states (I’ve been to Georgia, not Virginia), I just like the names. I like Carolina, but pronounced Caro-lee-na. I would definitely use Helena, but I wouldn’t want to continually have to correct people with how it’s pronounced. Is it Helen-a or Hel-ay-na (like St. Helena, CA). I would never name a child California, because I live there and don’t like it (although, the food is fabulous). I’m from Minnesota, but would never name a child that either because it’s way too state-y. Maybe I’d name a dog Minnie though.

mistletoenargle Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 1:09 pm

It’s not in this list, but I absolutely LOVE the name California on a girl.

emekct Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 1:37 pm

What about Arizona? As made famous by Grey’s Anatomy. It so suits the character and has me giving state names a second thought.

loverofnamesX Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 1:55 pm

My names Georgia and I live in Liverpool, England it’s a family name on both sides of my family but one side is Italian so a lot of family members spell it Giorgia which I like in a way but other people outside of my family gets very confused. I get asked a lot though if it’s after the state or if I have ever been before which I haven’t just because my names Georgia doesn’t mean I need to be from there or that I need to go there I do however get a lot of compliments on it.

» Place Name Picks: State your State favorites Baby Name Suggestion Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 2:43 pm

[…] Georgia, Carolina, Virginia–here are the Nameberry Picks of best State names in the Union. Nameberry – Baby Name Blog […]

bjoy Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I know a little Arizona who goes by Zoe. We live in AZ though, which I think is a little odd. I agree with the posters who believe it’s best to name a child after a place in which you don’t reside.

GoodHope Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 3:02 pm

My favorite is Virginia, followed by Georgia. I think it doesn’t matter if you live in the place or not, particularly with the ones that were names before they were states.

I’m surprised that Arizona and Kansas didn’t make the list. I’ve met two of each, both girls. I also know a male Utah.

Llumeneres Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 4:41 pm

I LOVE the idea of Vermont “Monty” for boys! Adorable 🙂
My personal favorites are Georgia, Virginia, and Carolina. I also love Alaska.

indiefendi Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 6:41 pm

I love Arizona but for me it has a lot of negative connotations. I really love that song “Arizona” by Kings of Leon but it’s about a brothel………

Arizona isn’t the most welcoming place for Latinos

etc. I think it’s a super cool name regardless though

Vemgem Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Virginia is my name, and I love it! Ginny is my nickname. I don’t know many people my age who have the name, so I love how it is both classic and relatively unique for my generation. I was named after a great-great grandmother, and when I moved to West Virginia at the age of six it never give me trouble. I have to say it is my favorite on the list, even if I am a little prejudiced!

mabespark Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 7:39 pm

I love Alaska, and Arizona & Utah are GPSs. 😀

cheeelllsss Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Place names are definitely a guilty pleasure of mine. Love Alabama (nn Alba), Dakota, Georgia, Montana, Atlanta and Indiana. Also a fan of Aspen, Alaska, India, Madison, Siena, Olympia, and York, Knox and Hudson for boys. Although some names like Georgia, Madison, India are well established on their own, I don’t really see them as being place names anymore.

britkarma Says:

August 14th, 2014 at 8:39 pm

It actually makes better sense to NOT name them the same place they live. Seems a bit too…. matching lol. But of course any other place name is a possibility for a kid, ties to it or not.
I love many place names.
Montana, Cali, Tennessee, Kansas, Jersey, Oklahoma, Alabama (I somehow got this nn once for a few years, though I live in ME and never been there before lol)

Chloe14 Says:

August 15th, 2014 at 12:18 pm

I love the name Dakota! I have never been there (well actually I have never been to America because I live in the UK) But I would love to go to America though. I think the name Dakota is such a pretty name and I really think it ages well too. I also kind of like the name Virginia I think that’s a really pretty name. I think Indiana is a nice name as well. I have never heard Tennessee of being a name though but I think it makes a gorgeous name none the less. I don’t think it matters if you live in the state and you call your child that it’s what you think of the name is what counts!

Zoey_Artemisia Says:

December 16th, 2014 at 7:29 pm

I like place names, and there are heaps of state names to choose from in America! Our state names in Australia can’t really be used as names (besides Victoria) because they’re most names like South Australia, New South Wales, Queesland, Tasmania, etc. but some of our capital cities can be used as names such as:

Adelaide: seems to be a Nameberry favourite
Perth
Sydney
Hobart: don’t recommend this
Darwin

@Chloe14 my old best friends eldest brother was called Tennessee

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